A prelude to the CCC

Tomorrow when I run the CCC at the Ultra Trail Mont Blanc, I'll carry with me this photo.

I don't know this young man, and I'll never meet him.

The photo is of my husband's cousin, and it was taken on the morning he set out with his university mountaineering club to summit Mont Blanc. His eyes, to me, sparkle with adventure and expectation, and his smile radiates happiness.

Ian didn't make the top of Mont Blanc and sadly he didn't make it back from that trip. He died on the mountain, decades ago.

Last time my husband and I visited Chamonix we visited Ian's grave.

At that time I knew very little of Ian's story. I hadn't seen the image I now carry, I had no connection to this person or this place. When we reached Ian's plot, I realised how young he'd been when he'd made his perilous pilgrimage. How long ago it was and yet how current his loss still is.

All of a sudden I was overcome. With sorrow for the loss his parents probably feel acutely still today. With respect for them, and for everyone who makes what must be a difficult decision to bury their loved ones' remains here, in Chamonix, in the climbers cemetery, instead of repatriating them to their home. Because this decision is made with the idea of living a life of adventure at its centre, even though that adventure may take life away.

In that moment I felt such a human connection to Ian, to his parents and friends. It was unexpected and therefore immensely powerful to me.

You might be thinking that I'm running here for Ian. But I'm not that honourable - I didn't choose the UTMB for that reason. If anything it's a coincidence that the world's biggest trail run happens to be here. 

I don't think for a minute that carrying a photo of Ian with me will give anyone that loved him, and still misses him, comfort or solace.

For some reason though, in this place, with this connection, it feels like the right thing to do.

Ten things to do while tapering for an ultramarathon

Taper can be challenging to get right. Your active kilometres, well, taper off to allow your body to recover from the slog of endurance training, and feel fresh for event day.

The challenges include too much time, not enough activity, still too hungry and logistics to get your head around.

I'm writing this from Briancon, in the week before the CCC at Chamonix. I've dubbed our Airbnb my "Briancon Bunker" where I'll finalise my preparation for the epic challenge to come, and this has inspired this post on things to do right before an ultramarathon.